Sep 262011

The Need to Go Green: Environmental Impact of US Offices

Commercial business is essential to the US economy, but standard office practices have a damaging environmental impact. According to the Clean Air Council, each year the average US office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy or print paper equaling four million tons of copy paper used annually.  In the US, the average office worker generates approximately two pounds of paper and paperboard products every day. However, some business owners and office managers opt to use recycled paper products. By the calculations of the US Environmental Protection Agency, every 20 cases of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 390 gallons of oil, 7000 gallons of water, and 4100 kwh of energy. Each case of recycled paper also saves 8 cubic feet of landfill space and eliminates 60 pounds of air-polluting emissions.

The standard use and disposal of paper is not the only office practice that yields a negative impact on our environment. In 2008, US commercial buildings were responsible for roughly 18% of all U.S. CO2 emissions. In the same year, the combustion of fossil fuels to supply energy to commercial buildings resulted in the emission of 1,075 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) .

The Green Office Makes a Difference

Your office can reduce and offset its environmental impact by employing green practices including:

  • Printing on both sides of copy and print paper.
  • Encouraging staff members to bring water bottles in place of disposable cups.
  • Practicing desk side recycling.

Your company can also make a green difference by choosing environmentally friendly office supplies that are made using sustainable energy and produced out of recycled or eco-friendly materials. Please note, there are two classifications of recycled products: post-consumer recycled means the material in the item was once another item that was recycled, and pre-consumer recycled means the product is made from manufacturing scraps left over from making other items. The following ten products are affordable green solutions for any office.

10 Impactful Green Office Products

1. Earthscapes Weekly/Monthly Planner
The Earthscapes weekly/monthly planner by House of Doolittle is made of 100% post consumer material and printed with soy-based ink. Each page features a relaxing nature image to calm and inspire you at work. This eco-planner also includes a contact section for important phone numbers and addresses. House of Doolittle has been committed to manufacturing green office products since 1990 and donates 5% of it’s profits to environmental organizations. For under $20, the Earthscapes Planner is a great green find.

2. Color Copy 100% Recycled Paper
Color Copy 100% Recycled Paper by Mohawk Fine Papers meets all the standard requirements of office paper performance. It is guaranteed to work with all laser printers, ink-jet printers, and high speed copiers. This premium paper is made with 100% post consumer recycled materials. It is green seal certified, which means Mohawk sought the certification of a third party certifier to inspect their manufacturing process and guarantee that it meets rigorous eco-friendly standards. Mohawk Fine Papers’ environmental goal is to make sure their carbon footprint is as small as possible, and they regularly reevaluate to make sure they meet the mark. Mohawk also utilize eco-practices such as wind power and sustainable forestry.

3. Triggerwood Pen
 The Triggerwood Pen by Goodkind Pens is made of 100% pre-consumer recycled materials. It is non-toxic, Forest Stewardship Council certified, refillable, and has reduced packaging. The ink is non-toxic and vegetable based. The long lasting barrel will allow you to refill and reuse your pen over and over again. Goodkind Pens has been committed to green business practices since its inception in 1992.

4. Biodegradable Mechanical Pencil
The handy Biodegradable Mechanical Pencil is a quality Paper Mate product. Made from corn based materials, this pencil will turn to soil or compost in about one year after use. Instructions on how to dispose of the pencil are included on the packaging.

5. USA Biodegradable Green Pen Highlighter
The USA Biodegradable Green Pen Highlighter by Dri-Mark Products Inc. biodegrades in normal landfill conditions due to special additives in the plastic resin that allow organisms to consume the pen. It sports a pocket clip, is non-toxic, and is suitable for office and home highlighting needs. Dri-Mark is an employee owned company that donates 10% of its profits to charity. Their environmental practices include utilizing 98% recycled plastic molds and using recycled shipping materials.

6. Rapid Eco Desktop Stapler
The Rapid Eco Desktop Stapler by Elmer Products is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic. This green version of an office standard can staple 30 pages at once and opens flat for tacking. The Rapid Eco Desktop Stapler is manufactured by Elmer Products Inc. who have specialized in office supplies for over 60 years.

7. Full Strip Standard Office Staples
Full Strip Standard Office Staples are made of 100% post-consumer materials. Small choices add up to a big difference and choosing eco-friendly staples is a way to contribute to a greener world. Made by Accentra Inc., they fit standard staplers for your office or home use. Just under $3 for a box of 5000, choosing recycled staples is a small way to make big change.

8. 100% Recycled File Folders
This eco version of an office essential is made of 100% recycled materials with a 30% post-consumer content. It has been certified by the EPA to meet sustainability standards. The manufacturer, Smead, is a woman owned business, and over 75 percent of their packaging and shipping containers contain recycled materials. To express their commitment to environmental practices, Smead participates in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative to certify their sourcing practices meet environmental guidelines.

9. 100% Recycled Notes
100% Recycled Notes by Redi-Tag Corporation will allow you to stick notes around your office or home and remove them with ease. They are made of 100% recycled material with a 80% post-consumer content. At under $7 for 12 pads with 100 sheets each, recycled notes are an affordable greener option.

10. Envirotech Recycled Clasp Envelope
The Envirotech Recycled Clasp Envelope by Ampad is made of 100% recycled material with a 40% post-consumer content. It is made of heavy cover stock and is perfect for shipping or storing documents.  The clasp and eyelet feature makes is easy to reuse. It is chlorine-free and meets the EPA’s standards for environmental manufacturing.

Clean Air Council
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Center for Sustainable Systems
The Green Office

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